Monday, January 7, 2013

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan~★★★★1/2

Author: Amy Tan
Title: The Joy Luck Club
Release Date: March 22, 1989
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "In 1949 four Chinese women---drawn together by the shadow of their past---begin meeting in San Francisco to play mah jong, invest in stocks, eat dim sum, and 'say' stories. They call their gathering the Joy Luck Club.
Nearly forty years later, one of the members has died, and her daughter has come to take her place, only to learn of her mother's lifelong wish---and the tragic way in which it has come. 
The revelation of this secret unleashes an urgent need among the women to reach back and remember...
In this extraordinary first work of fiction, Amy Tan writes about what is lost---over the years, between generations, among friends---and what is saved." 

Taryn's Review: When I was younger, my friend and I used to ride our bikes to a local cemetery. Among the graves was a section of older gravestones, ranging in dates from the early-to-late 1800s, and we almost always ended up exploring this part of the cemetery. The old headstones were almost exclusively in German and were the last memorials to many of the founders of our small community. As we walked the rows of graves, I'd wonder what these people's stories were, who they had been, where they had come from, and who they had loved.

Amy Tan pointed out in her book that those are questions we most likely wouldn't know about our closest loved ones. After the death of Jing-mei's mother, Suyuan, it was only then that Jing-mei realized there was so much she didn't know about her mother. Jing-mei's mother had retold a version of her life story in the past, but it was not until Suyuan's death that the true tale of Suyuan's life in China was revealed to Jing-mei. The beauty of Tan's writing was that is was simply, yet beautiful. I know when a book has been highly praised by critics many people assume it the book will be difficult to read, but this one was not. The hardest part of sorting out each mother/daughter set, but luckily the book had a handy page in the front which listed the mothers' names and their daughters' names; refer back to it as needed!

The book shifted back-and-forth between three mothers and four daughters (Suyuan's voice is silent due to her death). The mothers were Chinese women who had immigrated to America and the daughters were all first-generation Americans. The mothers and daughters each had stories and struggles, yet they were not shared with one another. The mothers seemed old-fashioned to their daughters. The daughters seemed uninterested and too American to their mothers. Each mother had a heart-breaking story about her youth and young adulthood in China; the daughters did not know the stories of what was lost in China. It was a very traditional and haunting world the mothers had experienced, and the stories will stay with the reader long after the book has been closed.

The book showed its age when Waverly admonished Jing-mei for going to a hair dresser who was afflicted with AIDS. Waverly was concerned that Jing-mei could pick the illness from the man since he was cutting her hair and hair was a live part of the body. Today we know that AIDS isn't passed through things like haircuts, but the book was published in 1989, so remember that when reading. Even today, in 2013, the message of this book is still relevant and important. Definitely add this book to your 2013 book list of to-be-read!

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